By Tanya Plibersek

23 February 2022


SUBJECTS: Domestic and Family Violence; Labor’s plans to help women fleeing violence, Federal Election; Ukraine. 
KEIR SHOREY, HOST: Well we are heading into an election federally. So many of the issues out there at the moment, we've spoken about a lot of them this morning. We spoke about insurance, the reinsurance pool. We've spoken about health services as well. Emergency accommodation for women and children is a major issue right across Far North Queensland and around the rest of the country as well. So right now, Tanya Plibersek the Shadow Minister for Education and the Shadow Minister for Women is with us. So, thank you so much for coming on. 
SHOREY: I'm well, things are not so great though, when it comes to affordable housing for women and children. Is that correct? 
PLIBERSEK: Well 100 per cent. So this morning, I'm going to be visiting a women's shelter with Elida Faith, Labor's candidate for Leichhardt. And then going to a women's meeting where we'll hear more broadly from other groups, charities, businesswomen, health services and others, about what's happening for women in Far North Queensland. We know that about one in three Australian women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. And so often people ask, why didn't she leave? When what they really should be asking is where would she go? That's why Labor's got a plan to build 10,000 extra public housing dwellings, but set aside at least 4,000 of those for women and kids escaping domestic violence, and that's why we've got a plan to fund 500 more community sector workers who would work in women's refuges and places like that to help women and kids escaping domestic violence. 
SHOREY: And how much more difficult is it for a woman when it comes to casualisation? You know, erosion of pay and conditions as well. Often they're in that situation where they're much more vulnerable to those circumstances. 
PLIBERSEK: 100 per cent. Look, Australian women don't want special treatment, they just want equality. And this is so true in Australian workplaces as well. Everywhere I've been going over the last few days people have been raising with me that they don't feel better off. They feel like their work is insecure, wages we know have been flatlining or even going backwards. The Government itself predicts that wages will go backwards by seven hundred dollars over the next year. So that work insecurity, the insecurity of income for families, they're just making life harder. People feel like life is harder than it was a few years ago, and for women who are in situations of violence that is particularly acute. Because if you can't find a place to rent, if you can't afford to leave home, if you can't take your kids safely to somewhere where they've got a stable roof over their heads, then you end up staying in a violent relationship. And we hear all too often that women feel like they've got nowhere to go and no one to help them. We need to change that. 
SHOREY: And that's certainly the case Ms Plibersek when it comes to rental shortages right now. We got places on the tablelands that are down to around about .3% vacancy rates, which is just insane for people. So what are you expecting to hear from people today when you come to talk?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think that issue of accommodation will be a big one. People need a safe roof over their heads, but so many of the things that people rely on just for a decent quality of life have really gone backwards in recent years. I mean, if you look at the pay and conditions for ordinary people in a job - we spoke to one woman yesterday who has been in a casual job for 10 years, trying to convert to permanent.
SHOREY: But hang on, sorry Ms Plibersek, isn't legislation that's allowed to make them have to become some kind of permanent employee after a year's worth of being casual? Isn't that what that legislation's meant to do?
PLIBERSEK: Well Labor's proposing that if you have multiple contracts, you have the right to become permanent. If the job you're doing continues along the same way, you're doing the same job for years at a time, of course you should be able to convert to permanent. But what we've got at the moment is a government, Scott Morrison and his mates down in Canberra, have argued against better protections for gig economy workers, they’ve voted against legislation preventing wage theft. We've asked the Prime Minister again and again, should Australians be able to earn at least the minimum wage if they're working in areas like fruit picking? He won't say yes to that. He's argued in favour of penalty rate cuts for women working, men and women working in areas like retail, hospitality, pharmacy. He's argued against increases to the minimum wage. Right now he’s arguing against a pay increase for people working in aged care, at the same time as we've got a national shortage of aged care workers that means that one in four shifts in aged care are going unfilled. We've got a Prime Minister saying these people don't need a wage increase, despite what we learned in the Royal Commission saying that aged-care people aren't being looked after properly because there's not enough staff on our wards to look after our most vulnerable Australians. We have a government that said, very clearly, low wages are a deliberate design feature of our economic management. Their Finance Minister said that, and you seen the effects of it in the Australian community. And what's really sad for Far North Queensland is you've got Warren Entsch who talks a big game when he's here and then he goes to Canberra and votes for all of these things that cut wages, undermine conditions, increase job, insecurity, make life harder, not easier for people who live in his electorate. 
SHOREY: We are with Tanya Plibersek, the Shadow Minister for Education, Shadow Minister for Women as well. Obviously heading into election so things are heating up at this point in time. How is the Government doing when it comes to what's happening in the geopolitics right now? Obviously, Ukraine, Russia is front and foremost at this moment during the morning. How good a job is the Government doing when it comes to reacting to that?
PLIBERSEK: Well, we are very worried about what's happening in Ukraine at the moment. This is an absolutely unacceptable aggression from Russia. Labor completely supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and is thinking about the Ukrainian Australian community and how difficult it must be to think of their family and friends back in Ukraine right now. We want to work in a bipartisan way with the government because it's important that Russia hears from the whole of Australia that what they're doing is unacceptable. We are keen for the government to act strongly to support the people of Ukraine at a time like this. And we want to work with them to make sure that Australia has a united position on this issue. 
SHOREY: And one of those positions from the federal government, Ms Plibersek, was the idea that we wouldn't provide any kind of troops to do anything over there. Is that a thing that Labor supports as an idea?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it's a bit too early to be speculating about that. But we've said very strongly that we support any economic sanctions. The Government has said that they want to help with cybersecurity because we know that the Russians are engaged in cybersecurity attacks against Ukraine. Certainly those measures we're fully supportive of and any other measures - I believe that the National Security Committee of the cabinet's meeting this morning. We would be very interested in being included by the Government in any discussions about other measures we can take to support the people of Ukraine at this very difficult time. 
SHOREY: Is that a question Ms Plibersek that you might not be involved in that conversation? 
PLIBERSEK: I think on issues like this it is really important for the Government to be bipartisan. And what we've seen in the last couple of weeks, is Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton and others trying to make national security a political issue in the lead up to an election campaign. We're not going to do that. We actually want to put Australia's interests first and work in a bipartisan way to have a strong response on Ukraine and on other issues of national security. It's too important. This stuff is too important to be trying to weaponize for domestic political gain and sadly we've seen that from the Government. We won't be engaging in that. 
SHOREY: How confident are you that you'll be in government post this federal election? There's no guarantees in politics, I learned that a long time ago, but we are working very hard. We've got excellent candidates here in Queensland. I've been campaigning with them and everywhere I go, people want to tell me that life has got harder over the last few years not easier under Scott Morrison's watch. I think that's the key to this election.
SHOREY: Tanya, thank you so much for your time.
PLIBERSEK: Keir, thank you very much for having me.